The cross country season certainly had a different look in 2020, but Aurora cross country runners made the most of what they got.
Adjustments to the coronavirus pandemic included shortened schedules, wave starts and a drastically reduced number of available spots in the state cross country meet, but the sport reached its proverbial finish line in fine fashion.
The 2020 Sentinel Colorado All-Aurora Boys and Girls Cross Country Teams, which were decided by results from the state cross country meet in October at the Norris Penrose Events Center in Colorado Springs, is a mix of runners from several city programs and includes a state champion in Kidus Begashaw of Lotus School For Excellence.
Just six months into his time in competitive running, Begashaw became the first boys state cross country champion from an Aurora school in 19 years. Smoky Hill’s Brent Vaughn won the 5A state title in 2001 and Begashaw joined him on the list of local champions with his comfortable victory in the Class 2A state championship race.
Begashaw became the first state champion of any kind for Lotus — a K-12 school with less than 1,000 students — when he held a share of the lead the entire way and finished in 16 minutes, 17.8 seconds, nearly 30 seconds in front of his closest competitor. The converted basketball and soccer player finished undefeated in races held in Colorado (Begashaw’s Meteor-ic rise, story).
Cherry Creek’s Parker Wolfe won the 5A state championship and had the nation’s fastest time, but ran in only a few Centennial League events during the regular season. That left the top of the league standings up for grabs for a group that included Cherokee Trail senior Caden Smith and the Grandview senior duo of Peter Fox and Jake Sheykhet.
Smith won the Centennial League championship and finished as the runner-up to Wolfe at the 5A Region 1 race, then got onto the medal podium with a ninth-place finish. The three-time state qualifier improved from 38th in 2019.
Smith’s Cougars finished ninth as a team boosted by senior Gavyn Welsh (54th) and sophomore Evan Armstrong (63rd), who each improved by at least 70 spots from the previous season.
Fox won one of the league meets and never finished out of the top three with Sheykhet right with him. Sheykhet ended up ahead of his teammate at the state meet as he finished in 15th, with Fox exactly two places and two seconds behind.
The duo helped the Wolves to 12th place as a team.
Eaglecrest senior Sawyer Slauson earned one of only two individual spots available at a loaded regional meet and used it for a 48th-place finish in his only state meet.
The Cherokee Trail girls continued their recent run as an elite program and landed six of the seven spots on the All-Aurora Girls Cross Country Team, which is rounded out by Regis Jesuit junior Amelie Colsman.
Junior Cameron McConnell recorded her third top-three state performance of her varsity career in as many seasons when she finished as the runner-up to Cherry Creek star Riley Stewart for a second straight season.
McConnell stayed closer to Stewart than any other runner during the entire season and took second by a margin of 26 seconds with her time of 18:00.50.
A Cherokee Trail team that lost several key contributors to graduation still finished fifth in 5A with younger runners rising to the occasion.
Sophomore Alexis Pagel took a big step forward this season for Cherokee Trail and made her debut at the state meet, where she finished in front of three teammates with previous state experience. Pagel — who won the Smoky Hill Buffalo 5K — claimed 21st and topped fellow sophomore Mckenna Mazeski by seven places.
Mazeski gained seven spots from her state debut in 2019 with her 28th-place finish, while seniors Megan Hodges (48th), Campbell Faust (52nd) and Lauren Hodges (55th) round out the All-Aurora representation for the Cougars.
Colsman — an individual qualifier — followed in the footsteps of older sister Isalina to make the All-Aurora team for Regis Jesuit, as she was the fourth-fastest runner from city programs at state.
Colsman finished 35th after a 91st-place result in 2019.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or email@example.com. Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
2020 SENTINEL COLORADO ALL-AURORA CROSS COUNTRY TEAMS
BOYS: Evan Armstrong, soph., Cherokee Trail; Kidus Begashaw*, sr., Lotus School For Excellence; Peter Fox, sr., Grandview; Jake Sheykhet, sr., Grandview; Sawyer Slauson, sr., Eaglecrest; Caden Smith, sr., Cherokee Trail; Gavyn Welsh, sr., Cherokee Trail
GIRLS: Amelie Colsman, jr., Regis Jesuit; Campbell Faust, sr., Cherokee Trail; Megan Hodges, sr., Cherokee Trail; Lauren Hodges, sr., Cherokee Trail; Mckenna Mazeski, soph., Cherokee Trail; Cameron McConnell, jr., Cherokee Trail; Alexis Pagel, soph., Cherokee Trail
HONORABLE MENTION: Boys — Jacob Blevins, jr., Grandview; Andrew Fox, soph., Grandview; Tyler Garfield, jr., Grandview; Noble Haskell, soph., Smoky Hill; Reuben Holness, soph., Cherokee Trail; Josh Lewis, soph., Cherokee Trail; Logan McGowan, soph. Cherokee Trail; Owen Zitek, fr., Grandview; Girls — Mikayla Smith, sr., Regis Jesuit
* — State champion